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HOLIDAY MOVIE SELECTION

MOVIE HOLIDAY SELECTION
As we begin the new millenium, Louise Keller lists her movie picks for this holiday season. Two films stand out above the rest – and although they both begin with the letter 'C', they couldn't be more different. Aardman's claymation charmer Chicken Run and Ang Lee's spectacular Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon top the list; but there's something for everyone, including comic and poignant Australian fare, as well as Hollywood blockbusters and the best from UK.

Most holiday season movies opened in December, but what with Christmas shopping and family commitments, office parties (and the hangovers) to worry about, most of us only begin to think about movies as January begins. Here’s my pick of what’s playing; but movies are a matter of taste, so I hope you enjoy whatever movies you choose to see.

EXCEPTIONAL

CHICKEN RUN
Voices: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson
Director: Peter Lord, Nick Park

Whimsical, witty, innovative and irresistible, Chicken Run is the film to catch this summer. Peter Lord and Nick Park have done for chickens what Gary Larson did for cows, in this delightful stop-motion clay animation parody. Playful, infectious, and totally extraordinary, you'd better run to see it – it's wicked!

CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Zi Yi
Director: Ang Lee

The sparkling jewel in the crown of Columbia TriStar’s Silk Screen Collection, Ang Lee's masterpiece, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a magnificent spectacle of fantasy, drama and action. Capturing the flavours and textures of its exotic oriental setting, this moving saga unfolds gracefully and eloquently on many levels, encompassing wishes and dreams, superstitions and their hidden meanings.

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY FARE

102 DALMATIANS
Cast: Glenn Close, Gérard Depardieu
Director: Kevin Lima

Everything's predictably doggy and dotty, from the digga digga dog music soundtrack and you might be forgiven thinking you're seeing spots – at one stage even Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are covered with dots! Glenn Close again creates a wonderful larger than life villain-ess; as for her hair (not so simply styled in black and white) and wardrobe (the red and black full mink coat is sensational), there are no subtle moments here!

BETTER THAN SEX
Cast: Susie Porter, David Wenham
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky

Cheeky, funny and disarmingly charming, Better Than Sex is a delightful encounter that grapples with sex and relationships – both superficially and deeper. Casual sex becomes not so casual, and so begin the complications. The forthrightness and honesty is as raw as an exposed freckle. Although Porter and Wenham spend most of the film in varying shades of undress, executing their passions on the floorboards, in the bath and on the bed, there's little sensuality, and plenty of clever, effective and endearing humour. Better Than Sex is a breath of fresh air, an irresistible and playful look at love, sex and relationships.

BILLY ELLIOT
Cast: Jamie Bell, Jean Heywood, Jamie Draven, Gary Lewis
Director: Stephen Daldry

Dazzling in every way, Billy Elliot is one of those films that makes you feel all the richer as a human being. Just like The Full Monty charmed us with its wry humour and engaging characters, Billy Elliot has a similarly uplifting effect. It's simply a knockout. My spine tingled throughout this wonderful film; it pushed every emotional button imaginable for me. Poignant, funny and overwhelmingly moving, Billy Elliot is a major triumph, richly deserving the highest accolade."

CHARLIE'S ANGELS
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray
Director: McG

Style, sass and stunts sums up Charlie's Angels, a fun escapist action flick with seductive super-heroines who are cucumber cool all the time. The emphasis is on fun, lots of it. The gorgeous gals can do anything - and they do! They display acrobatics, belly dance, crash through glass windows, dance, jump out of planes, martial the arts, race cars, scuba dive, sky dive (in case you hadn't noticed, this is an alphabetical reflection on their prowess) and, oh yes, they never break out in a sweat and always seem to be slipping into something slinky, spunky and sparse

THE DISH
Stars: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton
Director: Rob Sitch

Epitomising the Australian larrikin spirit, The Dish is a genuine feast of entertainment that will make you laugh, squirm and feel all gooey inside. High in energy, this well-scripted character driven comedy gives us a new perspective of the Apollo Moon landing – the unique one from down under, emanating from the middle of a sheep's paddock. We are rooting for these characters all along, through all the mishaps, bungles and problems, willing them to come through. She'll be right' is the attitude, and thumbs up is the outcome.

HIMALAYA
Stars: Thilen Lhondup, Lhapka Tsamchoe, Gurgon Kyap
Director: Eric Valli

Described by the writer/director as a Tibetan western, Himalaya is an extraordinary cinematic experience, taking us high above the clouds into a world that lies somewhere between the one we know and the Shangri-La that is paradise. How this film was ever made in these rugged conditions at the top of the world, where the dust is as thick as fog and the snow is knee deep, is a marvel. It's almost a spiritual experience, hearing Bruno Coulais' haunting chant-like music score, and being privy to a glimpse inside an unknown solitary world.

INNOCENCE
Stars: Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris
Director: Paul Cox

Poignant, visceral and cinematic, Innocence is a gentle film that evokes memories of young love that have ripened into full bloom. Essentially two love stories merged into one, Paul Cox has taken the theme of rekindled passions in the autumn of life and explores its complexities, mysteries and realities. The story unfolds naturally; Cox's script thoughtful and perceptive, capturing multiple textures and colours. With its haunting recurring theme of eight simple notes, Innocence is a rich and evocative cinematic work, exuberant with inner complexities of life's adventures of the heart.

THE MAGIC PUDDING
Voices: John Cleese, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Toni Collette
Director: Karl Zwicky

As Australian as a gum leaf, The Magic Pudding dishes up a fresh, colourful and delightful adventure capturing the compelling, larrikin spirit of Norman Lindsay's classic characters. The songs whet the appetite, with catchy tunes and the Anglo-Australian heritage is well reflected in both lyrics and accents. The boldly drawn animation sits on an appealing backdrop of pastels, charcoal and watercolours, reflecting only too well the familiar arid earthy ochre colours, the blue skies and our unique Australian landscape with its distinctively etched gums.

MEET THE PARENTS
Stars: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner
Director: Jay Roach

If you enjoyed The In-Laws, Father of the Bride and The Out of Towners, you'll love Meet the Parents, a comedic misadventure with tantalising performances and a big heart. With an agile, knowing glint in his eye, Robert De Niro is irresistible as the father with the most – er, off-putting persona. De Niro switches into these comedic roles effortlessly and with conviction; life's comedies are always serious. The scene stealer is Jinx, a divine fur ball, that purrs like a racing car, waves its paw, sits on the toilet and generally is utterly gorgeous. The humour is delightful with slapstick, one liners, farce and even some subtle musical jokes to boot.

O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?
Stars: George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro, John Goodman
Director: Joel Coen

Picture George Clooney in a hair net, John Turturro yodelling in a long false beard and Tim Blake Nelson talking to a toad… and you'll get a taste of what's in store in O Brother, Where Art Thou, the latest offering from the Coen Brothers. Cinematically, O'Brother looks a treat, with its muted autumn colours and glorious countryside, while the bluegrass and hillbilly music just keeps 'em toes tapping, and the Coen Bros sock it to us full pelt with mass-bizarre. It's a lot of fun, but like its moral about seeking your fortune, it may not be quite the film you think it is.

UNBREAKABLE
Stars: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

There's so much about Unbreakable that is masterful cinema. The story is compelling, the direction often takes the unexpected point of view and the cast is – well, unbeatable. It's therefore such a shame that M. Night Shyamalan has allowed melodrama to creep into this extraordinary tale of good and evil: the story of two men, who are in many ways opposites. The melodramatic elements take away substantially from much of what could otherwise be hailed as a masterpiece.

VERTICAL LIMIT
Stars: Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney, Scott Glenn, Izabella Scorupco, Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Taylor
Director: Martin Campbell

Beyond the vertical limit of the Himalayan peaks in no-man's land, snow leopards frolic in the crisp, dense white expanse that stretches far beyond the horizon. Breathtaking to look at, the natural wonders are inspirational, albeit on celluloid. There's plenty of action, stunts and memorable moments, although some may suggest it's almost too slick at times. But, this is Hollywood, and on that palette, Vertical Limit successfully paints its canvass. Ben Mendelsohn stands out in a laconic, comic role – his is the character we can perhaps relate to best of all, and Mendelsohn is terrific.

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Chicken Run


Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon


The Dish


Billy Elliot


Vertical Limit


Meet the Parents


The Magic Pudding







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